24.8.2013

Skrill North

Hednesford Town

Riley (50), Durrell (86), (88)

Oxford City

(0) 3

(0) 0

Attendance

MoTM

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581

Francino Francis

W W W

Worcester City (A) 26.8.13

Life in Skrill North after three games could not be any sweeter for Rob Smith's Hednesford side, as his charges moved back to the top of the table on goal difference after a good victory over a disappointing Oxford City side this afternoon at Keys Park

Following Tuesday's breathless comeback victory against Leamington, two of the Pitmen's impact substitutes from that game were rewarded for their displays with starting spots for this afternoon's game; Dave MacPherson replaced Kris Taylor in central midfield, whilst Nathan Woolfe came in ahead of youngster Robbie Thompson-Brown wide on the left

Oxford's start to the season had been disjointed, with defeat at home to Harrogate Town last Saturday followed by a 2-2 draw at Solihull Moors in midweek - Oxford conceding to the Moors in the final minute of the game. Creative force Tom Winters - the scourge of previous Hednesford sides - was ruled out for a number of weeks with a hamstring pull, only weeks after signing from Brackley Town

Both sides made a slow, thoughtful start to the game, with the Pitmen looking to use the extra width that Woolfe gave them on the left-hand side. Two crosses in the first ten minutes were nervously fielded by Oxford keeper Mark Scott, both times under pressure from Neil Harvey

A mazy run from Woolfe on thirteen minutes saw him spin away from two Oxford challenges down the flank, but his low cross was cut out before it reached the foot of Wayne Riley. Woolfe seized upon the loose clearance but was flagged offside before he could follow up

New City signing Adam Maabdi forced Dan Crane into a save down to his left midway through the half, firing low to the keeper's right after a quick counter-attack down the wing

A quick break from the Pitmen very nearly caught City out on twenty-seven minutes, as John Disney played a through ball to Woolfe down the right wing. He took the ball into the area unmarked. His low drive across the penalty area was not dealt with effectively by a recovering Oxford defence, with the midfielder flagged offside as he recovered the loose ball on the touchline after Harvey's mis-hit shot came back towards him

The Pitmen were seeing more and more of the ball as the first half wore on, with MacPherson working tirelessly to give Jamey Osborne time and space to create openings for the hosts. A hesitant Oxford defence had ridden its luck on a number of occasions during the first period, with the Pitmen lacking that quality in the final third to convert a good opportunity

Riley came within inches of opening his account for the Pitmen on the half-hour mark, as Woolfe's quick thinking played Durrell in from a free-kick twenty-five yards out. Durrell pulled the ball back across goal, with Riley a whisker away from tapping the ball home at the near post. Harvey's follow up saw him lob the loose ball over the crossbar at the far post, under pressure from two Oxford defenders

The Pitmen's lack of quality in the final third proved true again on thirty-six minutes, as Woolfe's cross from the left was headed narrowly wide of goal with a glancing header from Harvey, who was working hard but getting little reward for his efforts as he looked increasingly isolated up front

Osborne - who had started the season in superb form for the Pitmen, made a tremendous run through the heart of the Oxford defence a couple of minutes before half time, taking out three Oxford players in the process. His shot was deflected into the path of John Disney, whose low drive was saved by Scott low down to his right

The second half started with a real bang, as Riley somehow failed to open his account for the Pitmen with a quite astonishing miss. Chasing a long ball forwards, Riley looked second best to the ball as Scott raced out of goal to claim the ball. However, he and Oxford defender Adam Learoyd collided just inside the penalty area, allowing Riley to nick the ball and run unchallenged towards goal. Rather than steady himself, or indeed square the ball to Durrell, Riley lashed his angled shot towards the empty goal, and somehow managed to scuff his effort into the side netting, much to the disbelief of the Hednesford fans gathered in the Heath Hayes end

Riley made amends for his horrific miss three minutes later, as he latched onto a long ball from Osborne to fire past Scott from ten yards out with a fine finish

 Hednesford were now well on top of the game, pressing the Oxford defence through the excellent Harvey and the re-invigorated Riley, who was chasing everything down and working hard to support the midfield. At the back, Francino Francis was providing a master class in the art of defending with a faultless performance alongside Ben Bailey

Riley went close to doubling his, and Hednesford's advantage on the hour mark, picking up Harvey's through ball and forcing Scott into a smothering save low down on the corner of his six-yard box

The Pitmen made their first change of the afternoon on sixty-six minutes, as Taylor replaced the tiring MacPherson in central midfield

This was followed a few minutes later by Woolfe making way for the more defensively minded Alex Melbourne as the home side looked to protect their one-goal advantage

 A rare counter-attack from Oxford on seventy-three minutes saw substitute Liam Malone fire a shot in on goal, with Crane making a smart save to deny the midfielder an equaliser

A superb effort from Harvey fifteen minutes from time went agonisingly close to sealing the win for Hednesford, as the striker claimed a loose ball out on the left before unleashing a brilliant curling effort from long range that beat Scott all ends up, but came back off the angle of crossbar and post when it looked as though it was dipping into the top corner of the net

That was to be Harvey's final chance of the afternoon to get on the scoresheet, as he was replaced by Aaron Rey with eleven minutes remaining

The Pitmen made absolutely sure of all three points in the final few minutes as Durrell struck a quickfire double to add to his four goals already this term. With four minutes remaining, the midfielder picked up a pass from Aaron Rey out wide on the left touchline. He spotted Scott a few yards off his goal line, and executed a quite brilliant curling shot over the head of a bemused keeper and into the top corner of the net

Two minutes later, patient hold-up play from Rey out on the left-hand side of the penalty area saw him eventually pick out Durrell, rolling the ball into his path of the league's top scorer who was lurking on the penalty spot. Durrell scuffed a low shot past the diving Scott and found the corner of the net to make it 3-0

It could so easily have been another Durrell hat-trick in added time, as a superb Osborne run from midfield saw him beat five players and slip the ball through to Durrell. He took the ball around the diving Scott and shaped to shoot, but delayed his shot and allowed Scott to recover and turn Durrell's shot wide

The win puts Hednesford back on top of the Skrill North after three games, leaving only the Pitmen and Altrincham with 100% records after the first week of the new season. Smith's side visit Kidderminster on Bank Holiday Monday to play struggling Worcester City at their temporary home, looking to continue their excellent start to the season

Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney, Campion ©, Bailey, Francis, MacPherson (Taylor 66), Osborne, Durrell, Harvey (Rey 80), Riley, Woolfe (Melbourne 72)       Subs Unused: Thompson-Brown, Barnes

Oxford City: Scott, Clifton, Ballard, McNish, Learoyd, Wilmott, Benjamin, Pond (Malone 58), Cook (Symonds 64), Green (Skendi 65), Maabdi      Subs Unused: Basham, Francoz

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